Quake Policies Extremely Rare in Oklahoma

By JUSTIN JUOZAPAVICIUS | November 9, 2011

When an earthquake rattled his Oklahoma home a couple of years ago, retiree Melvin McBane briefly considered buying quake insurance for the next time it happened. Finding a policy too pricey, McBane figured he could do without.

Now that the state has experienced its biggest earthquake in Oklahoma history – a 5.6 magnitude quake Saturday – McBane is watching the cracks appear as his house settles and hoping any damage can be easily fixed.

He’s hardly alone. According to insurance agents, such policies are rare in Oklahoma, which is better-known for its tornadoes. Earthquake insurance is an add-on policy with a separate deductible typically based on the value of a home that could run into the thousands of dollars, and buying such a policy might even seem foolhardy to some Oklahomans.

“Quake insurance in Oklahoma? It’s unheard of, pretty much,” said resident Dean Baker, who is uninsured but unscathed by the recent quake, which damaged homes in a large swath of central Oklahoma and could be felt as far away as far as northern Texas, Illinois and Wisconsin. “It just don’t happen that often. They say all over the news there’s going to be no big earthquake.”

McBane, who lives in Sparks, said the cost deterred him.

“I talked to some other people that had it and they had, like, $1,000 deductibles,” McBane said.

Less than 1 percent of Oklahoma homeowners carry earthquake insurance, and only about $6.74 million in direct premiums are written annually for earthquake insurance in Oklahoma, according to estimates from Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak.

“It’s rare in Oklahoma because the history of earthquakes here is few and far between,” said Kevin Pinion, a Farmers Insurance agent in Holdenville. “Wind, hail, tornados are the more common events.”

Pinion said his office has fielded a few phone calls inquiring about earthquake insurance since Saturday’s quake.

Gary Stephenson, a spokesman for State Farm Insurance, said the quake shows the area isn’t immune from such peril.

“The takeaway is everyone needs to really visit with their insurer and understand a little better what their coverage is,” said Stephenson. “Don’t make assumptions on what you’re covered for.”

Central Oklahoma continued to be rattled by aftershocks Monday after Saturday’s quake. The U.S. Geological Survey recorded at least five tremors throughout the day, the strongest being a 4.7 magnitude quake Monday night near Prague, about 80 miles southwest of Tulsa.

Reports of damage continued to come into the Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management, with the bulk of the reports occurring in Lincoln, Pottawatomie, Creek and Okfuskee counties.

Damage ranged from cracks in home walls to a bridge in Okfuskee County awaiting inspection by an engineer, a spokeswoman said. State officials didn’t yet have an estimate for the total damage, and said it could take several more days to compile one.

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